Chaga, pt. 3

The homes were fewer in number the further we hiked, often standing alone amid tall banana trees or bunched together in a cluster. Oscar points to a ridge on the side of a hill facing us, indicating to us the beginning of Kilimanjaro National Park. “Beyond that line,” Oscar says, “no one can live.” We were approaching the highest inhabitable regions of Africa’s tallest mountain.

The higher altitude huts and communities were perhaps the most fascinating to me. The dirt trail we were on is the only physical connector between these people and a market, pub, or pavement, even. A trip into the lower elevation communities to sell a basket of bananas or maize could take a whole day, the majority of which would be spent hiking to the main road. These people advertise their various goods and services, as well as make community announcements, in Kiswahili scrawled in white paint on the front of a tiny wooden pub. Sort of the East African version of the Dow Jones ticker.

Given the simplicity of the lives of the Chaga, one could imagine our surprise to discover electricity this high up on the mountain. A simple wooden gutter catches runoff water, which continually flows over a simple water wheel made out of an old bicycle rim. The wheel turns, creating an electrical current that travels to an adjacent hut through a thin copper wire. The current this contraption produces likely only powers a single light bulb, a radio or maybe a cooking surface, but the ingenuity to create such a functional – albeit simple – generator this deep in the Tanzanian jungle still amazes me. One does what one must, I suppose.


One response to this post.

  1. I was amazed when, in Uganda, I went up a mountain miles away from any electricity to visit a church. After the service we went across the dirt road to an elder’s house for lunch. They brought out the traditional food of Uganda (matoke, greens, supu, etc.) and then they brought out ice cold Coca Cola. What in the world is that about?


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